Earlier this week the emblem of the Qatar 2022 World Cup was revealed. It was revealed in a promotional clip showing the build-up to the event with people from around the world coming together to watch the best teams in the world compete against each other. It will be the first time that the football World Cup is being hosted in the Middle East and it is therefore a monumental moment for the region. The decision to host it in Qatar has been controversial with FIFA and Qatar both receiving criticism. Qatar has also had heavy criticism from their neighbours since the diplomatic crisis of 2017 and tensions have run high between Qatar and their Gulf neighbours. However, there is a lot of joy and positivity in having the football World Cup in the Middle East and we should be praying for this occasion.
Having the Football World Cup in Qatar will have a massive impact on the country in a number of ways. It helps to show that the Middle East is not just a war-torn area but is also an area that thrives, has colourful culture, and possibly more importantly; loves football! We so often see images in the news of refugees, aftermath of bombs, and men holding guns. Being able to see a Middle Eastern country that is celebrating their culture and country through a positive lens will make a welcome change for Middle Easterners.
Due to the scale of the event they have recruited many international workers to help construct the various stadiums and buildings. This will naturally open up more conversation and interactions between locals and foreign workers enabling them to learn and grow from each other. Purely by having more international workers in their country means they are going to have a more varied outlook and an opportunity for people to learn about other religions. Earlier this year our partner, Open Doors, released a story about a migrant worker coming to faith through his fellow migrant colleagues. Although Evangelising is illegal in Qatar, it is not illegal to answer questions about faith. By having the World Cup in Qatar it has enabled a group of people who would not have met to spend time together, learn from one another, and have an opportunity to learn about God’s love for them.
The World Cup has also put Qatar on the world platform. This has meant their heavy reliance on slave labour, mis-treatment of migrant workers, lack of women’s rights, and freedom of religion, is now being scrutinised and condemned by international communities. Actions that historically have been swept under the carpet or ignored are now being shown on the world stage and they are being told that it is not right. While the Qatari government has taken steps to change employee rights in their country, there is still large-scale abuse of employees.
When the world descends on Qatar in 2022, there will be people from all different backgrounds and faiths coming together to enjoy watching football. These are occasions where we can see God actively at work. People will become curious, ask questions, make friends, and start following each other on social media. Through all of this more people will be able to learn about the God who loves them and calls them to follow Him.
Let us turn this week in prayer for Qatar and the 2022 Football World Cup
Lord, we thank you for sports such as football which helps unite people from across the world. Lord, we thank you that it helps to bridge friendships and breaks down barriers especially in areas with turmoil and war.
We pray that the government would stand strong in their commitment to employment rights and this would have a positive impact on the thousands working on the World Cup sites.
We pray for all migrant workers who are either on minimal wage or working as slaves. We pray for their safety and that they would either be given good pay or released back to their families in their home countries.
We pray that as the country looks to welcome more people into their nation, their government would reform their laws on freedom of religion and women’s rights.
We pray for all international bodies who are working with Qatar during this time. We pray they would use their positions to encourage Qatari officials to make a more open and free country for all.
Lord, we pray especially for Qatar’s relationship with their their neighbours, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. We pray they would use this event to have positive diplomatic discussions and look to bring positive change to the region together.